April 3, 2013
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NEW YORK CITY — University of Maryland sophomore center Alex Len could be a lottery pick in an upcoming NBA Draft. His scoring, rebounding, and shot-blocking were the talk of the Big Apple when the National Invitation Tournament kicked off Tuesday in Madison Square Garden.
By the time the semifinals had ended, the dialogue about another 7-footer — freshman Adam Woodbury from the University of Iowa — became more of a roar than a whisper.
Woodbury was going to let his coaches grade his performance after the Hawkeyes’ 71-60 victory against Maryland on Tuesday.
“I thought he was spectacular,” UI head coach Fran McCaffery said. “In the first half in particular when he was really matched up with him man-to-man, I thought he moved his feet, I thought he moved to the ball, he got his high hand up, and he got in front. He understood angles and made it difficult for (Len).”
During the first 20 minutes, it was Woodbury who had an edge in the box score. He made 3-of-7 field goals, 3-of-4 free throws, with nine points and two rebounds. Len had six rebounds, four points, and two blocked shots. More importantly, Iowa built a 14-point lead and led 38-33 at the break.
“I have been putting in a lot of extra work with the coaches and staff and I feel it has been showing. I’m trying to keep working every day to improve a little bit and the fans are starting to see I can improve. Some of the stuff that wasn’t coming to me at the first of the season is coming to me now.”
UI freshman center
“It was a big test for me,” Woodbury said. “I knew going into the game he was a key to their team and I tried to hold my own against him and play as hard as I could whenever he got the ball.”
In the second half, the Hawkeyes committed five fouls in the first 3:38, including two by Woodbury, giving him three for the game. McCaffery then called for more zone defense, and Len received a welcomed break from Woodbury’s one-on-one harassment.
“Even then, Adam was aware of (Len) and he bodied up and at least limited some the rebounding opportunities Len would have had,” McCaffery said.
“I can honestly say that I made it tough on him,” Woodbury said. “He got a couple baskets here and there, but I felt when I was playing against him, I made it hard for him to score.”
Len played 31 minutes and led the Terrapins in points (16), rebounds (nine) and blocked shots (six). Woodbury played 12 minutes in the second half, compiling two blocked shots and a rebound.
The Hawkeyes and their young center continue to improve. Iowa heads to the NIT championship against Baylor on Thursday with a record of 25-12. Woodbury has started all 37 games and is averaging 5.1 points and 4.7 rebounds a game while shooting 50-percent from the field.
“I have been putting in a lot of extra work with the coaches and staff and I feel it has been showing,” Woodbury said. “I’m trying to keep working every day to improve a little bit and the fans are starting to see I can improve. Some of the stuff that wasn’t coming to me at the first of the season is coming to me now.”
With Len retired from the tournament, Woodbury turns his attention to Baylor freshman Isaiah Austin, another post standing 7-1.
“We have never played against a little team,” Woodbury said. “We play against some size in the Big Ten and it’s going to be another tough matchup for us. We’ll be up for it; we’ll have to bring another A-game like we did (Tuesday) and continue to battle.”
Baylor and Iowa play for the NIT trophy Thursday with an 8:30 p.m. (CT) tipoff from Madison Square Garden.